When I first arrived in Japan, I was 22. I started to make my own money, live on my own, and discover the wonders of being an adult. Many factors that make Japan such a great place to party are due to the unique culture and geography. Osaka has a fantastic variety of things to do, places, and things to eat. I am sharing my top 5 reasons I believe the nightlife in Osaka is incredible.
Nightlife in Osaka is full of nomihoudai and tabehoudai
In English, nomihoudai translates to all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink, which means whether you are a drunkard (alcohol enthusiast) or a foodie, this is the perfect place for you. While many places have all-you-can-drink services, many cheap ones start at 1200 yen (about 11 USD) for two hours. Often, these come as a set menu item. For example, all-you-can-eat yakiniku (grilled meat) paired with nomihoudai for two hours. So, yes, this is a real thing and is quite common in Japan, even with different cuisines.
It’s normal for coworkers, friends, and family to have parties and celebrations with nomihoudai and tabehoudai for 2 hours. They also have bounenkai, which means “forget the year party”, where people would drink a ton of alcohol to figuratively and literally forget the year end. Then, not too long after, people would also have a shinnenkai or “New Year’s Party” at restaurants with table-nomihoudai. While these promote gluttony and overindulgence, I believe people here often know their limits. Even with these “all-you-can-whatever” systems, obesity is one of the lowest among the developed nations. I couldn’t help but think that if we had these in America, many people would die from alcohol poisoning or maybe even overeating.
The culture of drinking and eating as quickly as possible to make money’s worth is not so popular here. This is how I felt the first few months. I had some unconscious urge to get as drunk as fast and as much as possible in a short amount of time. I’m sure we learn this from the media and music. For example, that “Shots, shots, shots shots shots!” song. However, I’ve learned to control myself and enjoy the buzz while eating delicious food. Japan has taught me to embrace the moment, the atmosphere, and the company surrounding me. No rush, no competition.
Nomihoudai gives you the chance to cheaply prepare for your next bar or venue within two hours of non-stop drinking. Plus, you don’t have to tip. So save your money for the after-parties!
Nightlife in Osaka is filled with hidden gems
You can find many of these kukurega, hidden spots between buildings, in alleyways, underground, and literally holes in walls. While the population is densely packed in small areas of the cities, there are a wide variety of restaurants and bars in the same area. There are many places to drink, eat, and explore. Until this day, I am finding new places to eat and drink day by day.
I also find it interesting that people usually don’t remember the names of restaurants here. The name isn’t essential, but the memory of how good the food tasted and how great the atmosphere remains. Instead, people remember exactly how to get there; what train to take, what turn to make, and the nearby landmarks. Most of the popular restaurants among locals are not openly advertised but are known by word of mouth. There are many things to discover here in Osaka by talking to someone here. Osaka people are often enthusiastic about a new place they found the other day, which makes a good topic for discussion.
Whether you share the information with your friends or keep it to yourself to preserve the untouched and unspoiled nature of the place may become the most significant dilemma for you.
Nightlife in Osaka: Places to cure a hangover
When it’s 4 am, and the only thing on your mind is how drunk you are, how you want a nice bowl of ramen, and how you’re going to get into your bed, Japan has covered that.
It is commonly known that people either stay out drinking until the last train, around 12 am or 5 am, so either party conservatively or like a rock star. With this in mind, many restaurants are open for business to serve night owls who want a quick bite before they go home. Choices are not limited but abundant.
Besides McDonald’s (a popular spot for me in America) in Japan, many chain restaurants are open 24 hours. So, you can cure your hangover with tasty Japanese fast food.
If you’re into savoury beef rice bowls, go to Matsuya, Yoshinoya, or Sukiya. If you’re craving ramen, go to Ichiran near Dotombori or Kamakura Ramen and Zundoya in Shinsaibashi. One of my recent favourite late-night ramen restaurants is called Shijimi (Shi43), open from 8 pm – 5 am, where you can eat salt or miso-based freshwater clam ramen. Kaedama or double portions are only 100 yen extra! After eating your ramen, you’ll only have to wait a while to catch your first train home and into your comfy bed.
Nightlife in Osaka is pretty safe
A place you can party in safety and no worry of danger will give you the ultimate feeling of freedom. You are free to have fun and have a good time without thinking about someone trying to physically harm you.
Coming from America, going to clubs or bars, and seeing fights and heated arguments was typical. Most of the conflicts that you see here are between foreigners. However, the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed up to this day was two very drunk businessmen yelling at each other in some nasty dialect. Still, in the end, their friends could dissipate the excitement.
Here I’m convinced that friends have your back by not adding fuel to the fire but by trying to solve conflicts by peaceful methods in fear of consequence. It has something to do with the culture that supports the idea that if someone gets into trouble, the people present (especially friends) are affected and hold responsibility. Everyone seems to naturally want peace, and if you’re surrounded by that kind of culture, you’ll also like that, which is a great thing.
Another big thing is that you can walk the streets at 4 am, not worrying about getting your money stolen. There were countless times when I was drunk beyond belief, possibly due to nomihoudai, and walked home because I missed my train. I live in a place one hour on foot from Namba, where I usually party. I don’t have to worry about my female friends going home alone because Osaka is generally safe. Although some spots are known among Japanese people to be dangerous, it just depends on where you go, so please keep that in mind when exploring the nightlife in Osaka. Always be alert so that you can party safely!
Osaka people make the nightlife in Osaka
The highlight of Osaka doesn’t lie in tangible things. It lies within the people. With a rich and long history, the culture in Osaka runs deep through people’s veins. As a result, Osaka people have a strong sense of pride and identity.
Osaka people are often known for their friendliness, warmth, and humour. Compared to people from other parts of Japan, getting close to someone is easy. Knowing how to speak Japanese and what they laugh about will bring you closer. The people who live in Osaka know this and stay here because of this friendly environment. It’s not like any other city in Japan. When you’re on your night out, the company you surround yourself with is the most important thing.
To be able to experience a fun-loving and lighthearted atmosphere will make you want to be a part of what is known to be “Osaka”. Although Osaka is a big city, it can feel like home to a newcomer. You’ll never want to leave.
Anyone can enjoy the nightlife in Osaka
Because of cultural norms, Japan has a way of supporting an active lifestyle based on the night. With systems that allow you to experience great food, drink, atmospheres and people, and feel safe and secure, one can have the ultimate experience within the night. This is why Osaka is one of the best places to explore in my books.